District Unfair to Oxford Preparatory Academy, Student Says

An Oxford student writes a letter to the editor, outlining why he believes Capistrano Unified has been unjust in its dealings with the charter school.

By Alex Shreeve

I am writing this letter as a concerned seventh-grade student at Oxford Preparatory Academy. I recently attended . Seven of the eight open forum statements were from parents or friends of OPA who pointed out the many injustices the school has been subjected to by CUSD. It is embarrassing that our school has to fight so fiercely against the very organization that two years earlier had unanimously approved its creation.

The various speakers all highlighted the recent cheating accusations that were all rejected by an independent inquiry. The anonymous accusation that OPA cheated, and the silence from CUSD in defending the school, was a big blow to the entire OPA community. 

As a result, several angry parents challenged CUSD on this point and demanded that the inquiry results be made public along with a statement of recognition from the district. Subsequent to the meeting, they did issue a rather weak statement recognizing the achievement.

It is shameful that it took a public forum and angry demands from concerned parents to get CUSD to respond.

Further evidence of the lack of CUSD support relates to the schools lack of a Facility Use agreement 18 months into operations. The school CUSD provided, Barcelona Elementary, is an older school in need of significant repair. Not only was OPA required to share this facility with an uncooperative Barcelona staff and students, but OPA is still unfunded and unable to renovate the facility.

Several students with severe allergies have had significant difficult with the unsanitary and allergic conditions at the school. The grounds are unkept, unmowed, and there does not appear to be any effort to help the school be on par with the excellence being achieved. It is vital that CUSD address the facility use agreement as well as develop a long-term plan to upgrade the grounds.

Finally, much of the frustration from the parents seemed to be related to a general resistance to the success of OPA. Obviously the teaching philosophy, the cooperation with parents, and the teachers themselves are having an impact. This should be a model for other schools to follow.

I find it interesting that despite the stunning success, OPA continually is “shot down” by not only its home district but surrounding districts who should be embracing this successful new model. Instead of being threatened, CUSD and surrounding districts should celebrate the innovations and the improvements in education that benefit student education instead of fighting for political position and influence. Kids first, right?

The education of children must remain the highest priority for our communities. New models and new ideas for education should be allowed and encouraged to thrive in Southern California. OPA clearly represents such an innovation. CUSD needs to fully support the entire OPA community by recognizing its achievements, providing for appropriate facility management, and sharing its success with the rest of the district.  


Alex Shreeve

Seventh Grader

Oxford Preparatory Academy

Robert Reidel January 05, 2013 at 07:07 AM
Parents fearing retaliation from their school administration. Very sad. That rings a bell from somewhere... Oh yeah, that's right, there was 'The Enemies List' generated by some CUSD staff under previous CUSD Superintendent Fleming. Yeah, yeah, yeah, while he claimed he was just making the list to know which parents to talk to about their grievances, it was interesting that I never heard tell of a single parent on that list say he contacted them to discuss anything! There was a DA investigation and lawsuits against the CUSD on that. WIth those, there were at least parents (not anonymous) that stepped forward and said they were retaliated against by CUSD. There's none of that with OPA. There's no supportable basis that any of this 'fear of retaliation' exists at OPA, but at the CUSD district level, sadly there were concrete documented statements/lawsuits (regardless of how they ended). I hope we're beyond that, but am compelled to point this out because there is no evidence at all of this ever occurring at OPA, but there has been in the not too distant past at the CUSD. One has a history of misconduct blemishes on their record (CUSD), and one doesn't (OPA). I wasn't going to go here with this not too distant history, but since some have chose to go there casting aspersions to this effect on OPA, it's appropriate to put this in the proper perspective.
M January 05, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Well said capo parent too, I think OPA needs to move on from this.
M January 05, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Sorry Alex your dad did a lot more of the "editing" versus you writing it.
Corrine K January 05, 2013 at 04:32 PM
I have a couple of questions for those who are fluent with the OPA Cheating Scandal. Didn't the original complaint or allegations come from an OPA parent? If so, why are OPA supporters upset that CUSD investigated the issue? Isn't that exactly what they were supposed to do? And when there was no evidence of wrong doing, didn't CUSD publicized the results? Isn't that exactly what they were supposed to do? I'm not sure I understand why there is a controversy. Someone please explain.
Eileen January 05, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Please dissect the students letter. It will give you a better understanding of the controversy that exist. The district, well hmmm how do I say this in a positive way, needs an overhaul. How it had handled decisions have been shocking. All those in favor of change say "I".
Eileen January 05, 2013 at 05:11 PM
OC Parent January 05, 2013 at 05:14 PM
If we all agree there should be thorough investigations, then why have I talked to several concerned parents about abusive teachers and administrators in CUSD and the Board has never fired one of them........Never. When there is a Union Represented Employee of the District it seems they drink out of the Union drinking fountain and the parents and students are left unrepresented. In this case it appears CUSD rushed to investigate based on gossip at Target. It is that type of disparity that calls into question CUSD's dealing with OPA.
OC Parent January 05, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Jill where did your post go?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 05, 2013 at 05:51 PM
No. Nobody knows exactly where the first accusation came from. Even the district investigator supposedly couldn't figure it out. It was anonymous. Two days later, an OPA parent came forward. From that, meetings were held and an investigator hired. That OPA parent wasn't talked to for weeks after the initial complaint and then had nothing first-hand to report. You can read the OPA's report here: http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/opa-investigator-finds-no-basis-for-cheating-allegations#pdf-11888902 The end results are the same. The CUSD report gives you some extra details, such as the name of the CUSD teacher assigned to OPA, how she was the one accused of giving facial expressions during testing, that the first meetings CUSD held involved district office special education folks and that the assistant superintendent of personnel was involved.
OC Parent January 05, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Looking forward to hearing more on Monday night at CUSD board meeting when the report is officially presented. Hopefully Dr. Farley has spent time trying to understand how this got so off track and getting to the bottom of who within his organization leaked the information to the Orange Juice blog. Certainly if there was something worthy of leaking to put OPA in a bad light the mole at the district would have leaked CUSD's report too. The Farley False Allegation Non- Apology Tour continues.....
M January 05, 2013 at 05:58 PM
OPA has created it's own controversy, there are other charter schools in CUSD that aren't in the news and don't have this controversial stigma that OPA has.
OC Parent January 05, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Dr. Farley owes OPA and all of CUSD an apology for the mishandling of these FALSE allegations. In addition to the apologies he should investigate his administrators and the Board of Trustees as well to make sure the person or persons responsible are fired and or prosecuted for their actions. Is the culture of the enemies list is the next step for CUSD? I fear the union first toxic culture of enemies list is where CUSD is going under the management of Dr. Farley and the pro union political opportunists on the school board. Dr. Farley can still turn this around if he starts to clean house. Actions change things Dr. Farley, not flowery declarations and non apologies posted minutes before Christmas break on the CUSD website. No Dr. Farley you are not excused from this mess until you make sure it is cleaned up! Get to work Dr. Farley!
Robert Reidel January 05, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Apparently, Jill reflected on her spurious inflammatory posts, and decided to delete them.
Robert Reidel January 05, 2013 at 08:22 PM
Of course, the "Let's just move on" argument is trotted out. There are those that conveniently always want to call everything 'square' and advocate 'moving on', when it's to their benefit or those they support. You have your car legally parked on the street. A neighbor's teenage child smashes into it at 2 AM in the morning. You rush outside and see the child stagger into his house, such that you suspect substance abuse. This childs' parent comes to you and says: 'you really should have parked your car in your garage, so let's just forget about this whole thing". Of course you'd agree and just 'move on', in the spirit of cooperation, right? You wouldn't seek reimbursement or want any changes made to prevent recurrences, right? When it's you or those you support that are harmed, only then is it 'different'. I say NO!. Hopefully Monday this will be shook out, and we will all better understand what happened, why, how, and what will be done differently going forward.
Corrine K January 05, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Why does Farley owe OPA an apology? He did not make the accusation, but the district did as they were supposed to...they responded and investigated. They reported the findings accurately, and OPA was cleared. I wouldn't even go so far as to say that OPA owes the district a "Thank You" since they were just doing their job. For some reason, there seems to be a group of parents at OPA that want special treatment...special care and special recognition above and beyond what other schools, even other Charter Schools in the district receive. I know there are other charters, but we never hear them complaining that the "thank you" wasn't big enough, or the "I'm sorry" wasn't loud enough. Isn't enough enough with OPA?
Constance Beck January 05, 2013 at 09:24 PM
I'm glad someone finally brought this up. In 20 years of parenting, with kids in public school the entire time, I have never heard of a school so preoccupied with receiving attention and accolades. Should this school, its administration, faculty and parents focus on the education of the children instead of the attention they get for their success? I suspect if they made these demands from other districts, they would not get treated as fairly as here in Capo.
Erica Cox January 05, 2013 at 09:42 PM
Corrine...perhaps he should apologize for allowing the allegations to be leaked? Per Trustee Bryson, it was most likely a Board member.(where is that investigation?) Perhaps he should apologize for threatening to revoke the charter if the school did its own investigation (per the charter they approved, any complaints are to be investigated by the charter. But Farley threatened to revoke the charter if it even investigated!). Perhaps he should apologize for refusing to share any of the records, the allegations or the statements made about our school with our hired investigators...while OPA shared EVERYTHING. We STILL do not have a Facilities Use Agreeement, that is 18 months and counting. Can't paint, can't change out carpets, can't fix the school up in any way. Maybe for the 3 trustee members who ran a campaign of lies and sent out robo calls calling OPA a "for profit charter" that was going to close down the "insert name of high school in area they were running for. The investigation was based on ONE anonymous claim (union anyone?) and one account of hearsay upon hearsay. It was then dormant for weeks until a contentious election season and "leaked" just in time for that. Do you realize the testing is in May and nothing was done for almost 4 months? There has been ZERO accountability by the district for the leak and they appear not to care that a TRUSTEE spread this lie. Don't blame OPA parents whose children were accused of CHEATING-I will fight on.
fact checker January 05, 2013 at 10:02 PM
I don't recall any accusations of children cheating.
randy January 05, 2013 at 10:45 PM
RR - Did Jill really remove her comment? Was she asked to remove? Otherwise she has zero credibility. She has had so much info to tell. She would have known better than that.
concerned parent January 05, 2013 at 11:06 PM
An excellent letter, and one with many valid points. (And making charges about a seventh-grader with excellent writing skill is pretty low, by the way. There are, happily, students who are capable of this high caliber of writing--the sad part is that so many adults aren't.) Rather than being recognized for achieving the highest STAR tests of any school, OPA has been continually under siege, as mominsjc has noted with specificity. I don't have any connection with OPA, but I truly admire what they've accomplished and how they approach education of their students. The district's behavior toward the school has been despicable. What a shame that it doesn't try to emulate some of OPA's practices that have resulted in such leaps of learning for its students.
Whiskey Bent January 05, 2013 at 11:11 PM
You did a great job.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 05, 2013 at 11:18 PM
She must have. The only people who have the ability to delete comments are the editors and the original poster. I didn't remove it, and I welcome Jill's comments.
randy January 05, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Penny, I can't believe Jill was "being silly" to us. One small possibility is that she was asked by someone else to take it away. If not, what a complete billy-silly.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 05, 2013 at 11:41 PM
I didn't say she wrote anything "silly."
InformedParent January 06, 2013 at 12:36 AM
Alex - nice job! You should be proud.
BPM Mom January 06, 2013 at 04:58 AM
Great letter Alex! How brave of you to write it.
Robert Reidel January 06, 2013 at 08:15 PM
Constance, I think you have this wrong. OPA, like every other school and organization, celebrates when they do well and are proud of their accomplishments. Also, much of what's been in the media with regards to OPA stems from the now publicly acknowledged baseless allegations. OPA and its supporters have legitimate grounds to try and reclaim their reputation that was unjustly publicly tarnished. If someone publicly declares that you're a thief, and it's not true, would you be silent? Would you just set by and let your reputation be unjustly tarnished and let baseless rumors be propagated unchallenged when you are harmed personally and financially? Most would adamantly defend themselves, just as OPA and its supporters have done. This whole matter was handled poorly, and that was not on OPA's part. Read the students' article more closely, on how and why even a student bleieves OPA has been treated unfairly. If there's a specific point that the student has made, that you disagree with, that is what you should comment on.
Claudissima January 07, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Good Job Alex! Always step up for what you believe and if that is excellence even better.
JH January 11, 2013 at 04:11 AM
Well done, Alex! Bravo! You are so courageous to take a stand and give a voice to the students at Oxford Prep. It is too easy for those not living it day in and day out to say "move on." Never let your voice be silenced. It is a powerful one.
John J. Tramontana January 14, 2013 at 04:32 PM
Well done Alex! You did great.


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